Sexual abuse crimes often go unpunished because the victims are afraid or unwilling to report the abuse. The reasons that the victims remain silent are as sad as they are understandable. The following is a list of five obstacles that the victims of sexual abuse have to overcome in order to come forward.
Coming forward about sexual abuse often evokes painful memories that the victim does not want to relive. In some cases, the trauma has caused the victim to repress their memories of the event. They may have even have gone into shock or “blacked out” at various points of the abuse. In some circumstances, many years will pass before a person finds the strength to confront these traumatic experiences. This can cause some victims to feel that there is no point in coming forward about the situation, because so much time has passed or they don’t feel that they have a full recollection of all the details. At one time, there was a statute of limitations (i.e., a time limit) for pursuing legal justice for a sexual abuse crime. A new law in Maryland, the Maryland Child Victims Act of 2023, removes the statute of limitations on sexual abuse lawsuits filed in civil court and for sexual abuses against children.
Sadly, it’s common for the victims of sexual abuse to blame themselves for the abuse. They might believe that their situation could have been avoided for various reasons (if they had they not been intimate with the person before the abuse, if they had not flirted, if they had not been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, if they had not been in a place they weren’t supposed to be, etc.). In some situations, the victim may have been too young to recognize that they were being abused. It can be decades before they process what happened, with their adult minds. Still, they may have guilt because they experienced some pleasure or had strong positive experiences or feelings for the offender while they were being abused.
Fear of Punishment or Reprisal
Victims might worry that by coming forward about being sexually abused there will be punishment for things they did at the time of the abuse (e.g., breaking curfew, consuming drugs or alcohol, pursuing premarital/extramarital sex, etc.). When sexual abuse happens in the workplace, there is often concern that coming forward can impact their job or career. The same can be said of clubs, sports, and schools, where the victim worries that coming forward will cause the loss of position, membership, or friendships. Some victims worry that the abuser, especially if it is a violent offender, will harm them or their family if they come forward.
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Fear of Stigma
Sadly, many victims of sexual abuse remain silent because they worry how others will treat them once they know. They worry they will be permanently labeled as “damaged goods,” weak, promiscuous, dishonest, or as a trouble-maker. Cultural and religious reasons can also cause fear of being ostracized from their community.
Fear that They Won’t Be Believed
Victims often stay silent because they do not have full faith that anyone will believe them. The perpetrator could be someone well known to the victim and the victim’s loved ones or colleagues. Victims worry that no one will believe their experience because the abuser is someone they know and maybe even trusted, and it will seem too out of character. They might worry they will even be blamed for the abuse, because of what they wore, what they did or said, their state of intoxication, or other reasons, despite the fact they did not or could not give consent. In other situations, the victim might believe that the authority figures (e.g., police, workplace administration, parents, etc.) to whom they would report the abuse are not reliable.
When You or a Loved One Is Ready to Come Forward…
Maryland Governor Wes Moore recently signed legislation that removes the statute of limitations on sexual abuse lawsuits filed in civil court and for sexual abuses against children. In other words, even if you were sexually abused decades ago as a child, you now have the legal right to file a civil claim against the perpetrator and any organization that bears responsibility.
Brown & Barron is equipped with the resources and experience to handle sensitive child sex abuse lawsuits, including those that involve incidents from many years ago. We can also represent survivors of adult sexual abuse, such as cases involving nursing home sexual abuse.
Contact Brown & Barron online or call 410-346-0206 today.